Ben Gutkovich shows us how we can collaborate with our audience on recruiting, business development, investment scouting, and beyond.
just to let you know, the first 15 or so minutes of this interview has Some sound quality issues, but it does fix itself after about 15 Urso minutes. So please stick with it. It'll be worth your time. Thank you. Welcome to the frugal preneur podcast. I'm your host, Sarah St. John and my guest today works with prime flow. A service that enables your audience to collaborate on recurring business development, investment scouting in beyond. Please. Welcome to the show. Ben Kovich. Hi, Sarah. Pleasure to be here. Thank you. Well, thanks for coming on. And can you give us a little bit more of your background in history and how you got started with prime flow? Sure, absolutely. I originally from. But grew up in Israel and came to the UK about 10 years ago to do my MBA here and kind of stuck around. And my background started in technology, software engineering, product management got kinda excited about that side of things. But then going into my first startup in 2005 already got really excited about the entrepreneurship and the ability to deliver impact, develop products and help change the world. in my little way. And ever since try to go into businesses, started different businesses and now got to prime flow. So after my first startup, I did go to corporate and I've been a product manager at orange. So in telecoms, but even there, I've already been thinking about some new businesses and started the mobile app. I started another and a tech consultancy as well, and then came to the UK with that, the idea of starting a business after my MBA, you know, you have a nice kind of university environment with people who are very high level. It was a lot of experience and also with a lot of ideas and that'd be to develop those ideas and find a good co-founder. But visa rules have been an obstacle and I couldn't actually start a business right out of school. So went back to corporate. And dot on a couple of stints in consulting. So went to McKinsey and then to PWC in the M and a advisory team, which was great, definitely a really interesting, energetic, super smart environment and big projects. But I w I was always attracted to doing things with my hands, and in the end for consulting the output. Which the client can do something with, or might not do anything with, or something might do something completely different as well. that didn't feel right for me. And as soon as I was able to, I went back into entrepreneurship first thing I did very much on a shoestring. So very much suitable was the name of the show was to start a coaching business. And already, when I was in consulting, I started doing it a bit on the side. So several platforms, helping people prepare for interviews and doing a bit of career coaching for people who are thinking about consulting or careers in strategy in general. And I really liked it, right. And again, it's all about driving impact and helping people. And that was really enjoyable. And while stealing consulting got myself a contract with the recruiting agent, Was focusing on diverse hires for consulting. And that allowed me this basic level of income to be able, you know, with a family and everything, even in London to be able to quit my job and focus full-time on entrepreneurship. I've been running this consulting and coaching business for about a year and a half. It's still running more on the passive side now, which I really like, passive income is probably the best. And I've joined the guys at pride flow in November last year. And since I've been kind of leading the business commercial side, Oh, okay. And can you explain more what prime flow is and what it does? Absolutely. And actually in prime flow, we do help entrepreneurs like yourself, who, invest time in building an audience, right? Create content, create useful things for their audience, either other community, maybe a podcast, maybe youth lecture, maybe just use social media to create. thought leadership pieces in a truck to attract a larger audience. We help them monetize that audience. Right? The idea is that people build this, large audience and are actually unable to fully monetize it. Yes. Some of them get consulting gigs out of it. Maybe some speaking engagement, maybe write their book and then, you know, use the audience as, a platform to actually market the book. But there's still about 95% of that audience. Trusting the person following the person, the person has their attention, but they can't actually monetize. And our idea was, the growth of this, of creative economy that centralization and removal of all of those intermediaries for media and from art and, and et cetera was to help them get more value of that audience, but also help their audience to get mobile. And the idea behind prime flow is that within any professional audience, there are people who have demand and people who can supply that demand. And the few use cases we focus so far were around recruiting and. So in an audience of there are people who are looking to hire and people who either look for a job or know other people who look for a job. Now there's a lot of value in, in recruitment, right? Instead of talent market is holes and I'll keep it up again. After the pandemic and people are, people know that, high quality, talent, isn't the end, their competitive advantage in a lot of things. Right. So they are after this high quality Catalin, but the ways to do it now are. Right. So, one way of doing is you can post on the job board, but you attract only people who are looking actively, right? Then you attract a lot of people who are just not relevant. Then you'd have to sift through hundreds and thousands of series, depending on how attractive the job is. Or you can hire a recruiter, but that's very expensive. Right? So recruiters charge roughly in the UK, 10, 15 K for a kind of mid-level places. Just quiet the Lord for a small business. But on the other hand, the people in the same audience could be those same relevant candies. Right. And they would also be relevant to the needs that you're looking for since you're a follow-up person who is talking about that particular niche of focus or that particular value proposition. So what we do with pride flow is we provide the people who have no deals, a platform to connect those two sides. So the person who has a request can share that request with the influence of the business, influencer, the owner of the newsletter, et cetera, and them. They can set whatever rewards they feel is fair for this, but it will definitely be lower than paying. Right. So they said this word, and then the influencer can share this opportunity with their audience. Right? Eyes are very specific in a targeted manner. So some people know exactly who to share the opportunity with others. Go more publicly and share broadly with all of their audience and invite them to engage. Now, the audience get, can either apply themselves. To the job or they can recommend other people from their own networks for the job. If the job get fulfilled, the reward is then shared between the influencer and the people in the audience who were involved in bringing the right candidate for the role. Oh, okay. That's interesting. So it keeps you from having to pay a whole bunch of money to a recruiter and reward someone for bringing you the right employee, I guess that's kinda how that works. Exactly, exactly. And the idea is that because the influencer is not running a recruitment agency, they don't need offices, they don't need marketing. They don't need additional people. It's much cheaper for them to come. Use their existing audience to distribute the request. also influencers genuinely focused on a particular niche. So I guess there's your podcast. Is those entrepreneurs on the shoestring who are building businesses without too much investment. that's the audience for your podcast. Other people have different audiences in FinTech or in, recruiting for instance, startup. Et cetera, within that audience, you have both sides of the market. And we let influencers to actually organize this marketplace and distribute the payment to the people who are involved in, in basically closing the deals. And you're currently in beta, I think. Is that right? Yeah. Well, we've launched out by look in. So far, we've recruited about 60 influencers and they are very different influencers. So we do have people with newsletters. We have people who run communities. We have people who just have their Carla social media presence on LinkedIn and have built an audience of 20, 30, 40,000 people. And they brought with them their audience. And currently we have about 350 people. Who are fully logged in and signed up to the platform, but the total audience has about half a million people total, each of those 60 influencers. Oh, wow. Yeah, I signed up it put me on a wait list and then I think I got an email. I haven't set it up yet though, but I need to, because I want it, I want to explore how the platform works. So at the moment, because we're still in pilot, we're very much focused on learnings. We do have a wait list and we try to kind of select, very specifically the people who might be the best fit for that, but I'll make sure that we get your board as soon as possible, but the way it works, we would build you a personalized landing page. Through which you can attract the demand and the supply, In that lending page, you will describe what is the area of expertise or the niche you want to focus in, Whether it's recruiting, maybe sales, maybe investment for those entrepreneurs, ladies, small business loans. And then the idea is, to connect people within your audience around those topics. I don't think. seen anything like that before like a, matching type of thing, but for recruiting For the purpose rather is what value. Right. for me, it really resonated when I was going to start to speak with the guys. They can October. I wouldn't call myself an influence. But within the consulting world, I'm pretty well connected. And I do get a lot of requests generally only thin from either recruiters looking to hire someone. Hey, do you know someone from your days at McKinsey who might be a good fit for this role? Or I have this project, if you're not available, can you recommend someone to me? or just genuinely startups and people I know who asked me to get introduced to a particular person or someone who can help them hire, recruit, fail, even potential customers. I'm happy to help. But what happens generally is first of all, I don't know what happens in the end. Whether people connect with whether the deal is closed, whether there was any value created, because people generally don't follow up. Sometimes someone will drop me a note and say, Hey, listen, thank you for that connection. That was really helpful, but it's relatively rare. Second. I don't have a way to actually distribute this request further. So maybe I know someone who knows someone. But for me to actually go to that person and say, Hey, can you connect my friend to the third person is an effort, I'll do it for my close friends, but for the broader network list. So now just say probably, I don't know anyone. And the last thing is, is I never get any share of the value, Even if I'm connecting the recruiter for, a project, for which they're earning, thousands of pounds, I wouldn't get any share. And a lot of people are like this, right. they have this view of good karma, what comes around, goes around. But in the end you do want to get a share of the value that you create and also do it more systematically because I think official we're able to get the chair. They will do it more and everybody wins. Yeah. I've seen I don't know if you're familiar with Self publishing the guy that owns that Chandler bolt I'll frequently see him post something like we're hiring. I'll pay you a thousand dollars to bring me the right person. So I guess it's like that, but. I don't know how he's keeping track or how that works. Maybe I could tell him about your platform and see if that, do you have any affiliate or referral program to bring someone on like that? Actually we do. I will send you an opportunity to fill out and then yeah, if that's successful and they own board the become an active influencer, absolutely. There is the 500 pounds reward. Oh, wow. Awesome. Exactly right there is. How do they keep track of that? How do they manage those? Can they expand it further to add multiple hops, right. To get to the right person? That's exactly what we're covering. another thing it says investment scouting. So is that like when you're looking for someone to invest in your business? so after I left McKinsey, I got quite involved in the investment space and the kind of the startup entrepreneurial space in London. Even in my MBA, I've been the president of the VC clubs. So I created some relationships there, but after I left my key, they had a bit more free time. Cause you know, in McKinsey doesn't allow much time for any side businesses or, any to be fair hobbies. so I got a bit more time and I got involved in a few accelerators and started mentoring startups as well, going to help them structure their approach, think about go to market market research, et cetera, just kind of leveraging my consulting skills. I do get a lot of requests of, that kind. Oh, we are the startup here is our pitch deck. We are looking for funding. Can you please connect us to the right investor? when I get those requests, now I just send them to my prime flow landing page and let them fill out appropriate requests that could then track it's. Okay. They don't want to add the reward. I'm fine with that as well, but at least I can track the request, understand if, something was closed in, then if I was able to actually generate value. It's all about just helping people connect. Right? Cause in the end, people want to do business with people, it's a bit like a matchmaking service. Yeah, we did a particular niche. So the influencer organizes around their own niche because the audience they have would have similar kinds of affiliation, Whether it's FinTech, whether it's startup investing, whether it's recruitment, within that niche, it's about really connecting people. So the person who has the request can submit what we call an opportunity, and then that opportunity can then be shared either. Specifically with another person who can help or with all of the audience and see, who can respond to that request and actually help out. And one of the things also, I don't know, you know, I know you're probably a member of multiple communities. I, I do have a few obviously entrepreneurs but also from my business school, alumni, community and McKinsey community. And that will manage them. And each of those slugs have this opportunity channel where people post requests or opportunity or jobs or request channel, you know, everyone calls them differently, but they post requests there. They're unstructured. It's difficult to engage with them and it's very difficult to find them after, you know, a few requests got posted and the older requests get pushed out. They also tend to be a bit scattered around the terms of what the request is. Some people looking for hire, some people are looking for investment. Others are looking for customers, right? So it's all a bit of a mess. And as a result, what we hear from people that run those communities is that there is very little engagement with those opportunities Communities are great for events, but actually not so great for connecting people. One-on-one in business and that's another problem we're solving, right? We come to the community and we make it possible for people to connect around particular objective and particular goals. And then, Hey, if value is created, it's only fair that the person who organized the community gets some sheriffs. So like for me, for example, as a podcast host, let's see, I'm trying to think, how could, I guess use prime flow? if someone has a job opening or looking for someone, they could let me know about that. And then. Mention it on the podcast or in the show notes or something, what would that process look like? Sure, absolutely. So the first step is really deciding on your niche. is it recruiting that you want to focus on? Is it sales? Is it investing it comes from knowing your audience and knowing the kind of audience you attract with the content you create. Then I assume it would be entrepreneurs and entrepreneur. Maybe they are looking to hire using that would be a reasonable common request for the people who listen to them. I'm thinking more like hiring freelancers or things like that. Okay. Well, fair enough. Great. Do you think there are people in your audience who either manage marketplaces so freelancers or freelancers themselves, There's probably some who are freelancers themselves either that, or they have their own business and they're looking for a freelancer. Yeah. Okay. But that's great. Right? So you can connect those who are freelancers themselves to the people who are looking for help. For freelancers in marketing, maybe building out a website, maybe some graphic design, et cetera. so we create a landing page with you. for you that invites people to submit requests and then respond to those requests through that landing page, someone who is looking for a freelancer could post the description of the project, maybe the budget, maybe some other details of whether they need to be removed or located in a particular geography, et cetera, and set a reward. Let's say they're looking for a graphic designer and they're willing to pay a hundred dollars if they find the right match On the same page. You can invite people to collaborate on that opportunity, It becomes a kind of a, this kind of opportunity channel in slug, but a little bit more sophisticated because first of all, there is tracking and there is a reward and the reward is paid out. And second, you can be very specific in choosing particular people, So one way is really to keep it open and public and, and let everyone collaborate on that. But you can also go ahead and invite some people specifically to actually engage with this opportunity while sharing the rewards. Let's start there. What is a hundred dollars, You might say, well, I'll keep 50 to myself and I'll share a 50 with someone who can help me bring that graphic design. People sign up into prime flow, Super easy. Either Google again, or, just email and password. And then they can start submit referrals and submitting referrals is also super easy, right? It's just the name of the person, some details on their LinkedIn, perhaps, maybe a CV optional a couple of lines of why that would be a good match for them. Those come to you as the organizer of the marketplace, you decide. Yep. That sounds like a good referral. That doesn't sound like a good referral. You pass them over to the person who has the request. And if they say, oh, that was a great match. They pay out the rewards and that get distributed between yourself and the person who brought them. Okay. I think I understand it better now. It would probably help if I could get in there and actually try it out. But I think I understand better now how it works. So it's almost like your own private marketplace where you can connect people who are looking for a job with people who are hiring for a job or even people looking for an investment with people who are looking to invest all of that kind of stuff. so it could almost be an extra revenue stream for influencers. Oh wow. Yep. big influencers was a large audience and large professional audience can actually make a significant amount of money out of that. It could be thousands of pounds a month. I mean, those recruitment opportunities and obviously sales opportunities are pretty big. so far we have about 50, 60 opportunities live on the platform. And I would say, you know, from the sales side and we're talking about B2B sales those opportunities are worth 10, 15, 20,000 pounds for a closed deal. Now, of course it takes time. It takes six to nine months to close a large B2B deal, but they pray really well. Recruitment opportunities are a little bit cheaper, but also faster to close those January close within the month, maybe two months. and those carrier rewards between 2000 and I think the highest one was around 6,000 pounds. quiet, a nice income. And the nice thing, if you do have a large audience, Actually you don't need to do much work, There is a little bit of filtering in the middle because the idea is that you are an expert in the space. So you also add value by having a look at the of that and said, well, is this a good match or not? Versus a regular job board where there's no future until it actually gets to the company. So there is a little bit of work, but in the end, all of the work can be done by the people who have access to a supplier by your audience in the end. how do you prevent, say there's a connection made and they hire that person or, invest in that company, but then. What if they try to go off prime flow and do it kind of under the table, I guess to where they made the deal, but they didn't do it really on the platform. So you don't get paid. Is there a way to prevent that? theoretically it is possible, you can always circumvent the platform, Even on, eBay, You can go direct and have with eBay fees, et cetera, and maybe get a cheaper deal. the two things that prevents that from happening or helps prevent it from happening. One is we generate contracts. We generate it's a standard referral agreement, but we do generate it as part of creating an opportunity and the person who creates an opportunity signs up to that. And so they are legally obliged to pay out the reward in case of a successful transaction. there is some legal grounds to go off to them afterwards. But two and I think more important is the idea that if that becomes a relevant recruiting channel for the business, why would they give it up by, plain unfair, let's say, And the third thing, how the supply that is not recommended with the client actually. And that is related to what we talked about before, whether the opportunity is public or very targeted. If you go public, yes, they will see the opportunity and they will, could potentially get in touch with the client if the client's name is mentioned there, but there is also a private mode where you connect people you trust. And then the referral that come in actually go through the influencer or through yourself in this case. and don't go directly to the club. it still needs to go through you to submit the referrals. Another thing that I just thought of, if you know of a company or a person or whatever who's hiring and say they have the job listing on their website Could you contact that person and say, Hey, I have this marketplace of targeted entrepreneurs or whatever, the, nations, and say, would you like to list this on my marketplace? would that be an option too? Like you're almost proactively looking for job openings, not for yourself, but to get them listed on your marketplace. Yeah, absolutely. And that's what we see from, our influencers. Right. And their behaviors are quite different. We have influencers who stay quite positive and they just post the landing page on LinkedIn and they invite their audience to collaborate. so they are not actively looking for opportunities. We do have someone actually based in Finland, who has been an HR director, multiple large companies, and his approach was actually to go to those scopings and say, Hey guys, let's try it. Network based recruiting. I know that you're looking for a bunch of tech people, and it's really hard to find. Let me help you through my network of 40,000 people only. So he went to very targeted, got those opportunities in his network and then started in a targeted manner. Also sharing it with a couple of, I mean, since he's very collected in the HR space, so he knows a lot of recruiters. So he started sharing because it actually was recruiters. and got quite a few referrals as a result. so we do have those different approaches. You can be very broad and then just kinda inviting everyone to collaborate, or you can go target even being intrepreneurial, as you say, even approaching a client that you don't know personally, in the case of our Finnish HR director, he actually went to the people he knew personally, but you can go and find them open, just say, Hey, I know you've been looking for that person for a while. I think I can help. I'm an expert in that space. I have a large org. Why don't you post the job with me Oh, this is very interesting. I'm just, there's a lot of thoughts going on in my head about different ways you could, what you could do with that. So, some people though don't, pay out anything when they get a referral or whatever, but on this platform, that's the whole, thing, right? Is that everything has some sort. of fee attached to it or, a reward, the reward is no longer required. We did want to do it always based on rewards, but actually a lot of people were. they wanted to use the system to manage the referrals. And to see what happens and, to see that they've been successful and there is value created, but they didn't necessarily want every time to get. So in order for them not to do it off platform, when they don't want to get paid and do it on platform where they want to get paid, we just allow them to set the reward. so that they can at least use the platform to track the referrals and make sure that there is a result, even if they're not getting paid and they don't have to go elsewhere to do their referral. so it doesn't have to be, but our business model is realized on the reward because we take a 10% transaction fee. So we believe in this kind of win-win situation where, the influencer get paid because they get the share of the value. The company finds the right candidate or the right customer. and we get paid as a result as well. So, just aligning incentives. So, did you help create the company or was it like it already existed and then they invited you on good question. So I'd say in this iteration that probably helped create my focus was more on the business commercial side. So working with the influencers recruiting, helping them, guiding them and, finding those influencers. The company existed, but they had a bit of a different model. They started by working with actually venture funds and the idea there was to create a marketplace for deal flow. the smaller funds collaborate quite a lot on opportunities and startup investments. but they don't have a good way of trying. the idea was yeah, we, we can at least it was also blockchain based in that sense where you could actually track who participated in bringing the deal so that when there is an exit, there is a fair sharing of, of the value. So again, quite similar, but in terms of the concept, but it was more focused on VC funds and investment. there was a pivot. It last summer. And that's roughly where I joined Canada when we were settling on, the new options. Yeah. I was just curious about that. That's interesting. Awesome. Well, cool. Well, I'm, learning a lot more about it. I mean, I had been to the website and I kind of understood it, but then you've definitely helped me better understand it. it is a complex concept. And actually we're looking to see how we can simplify it. So we are, again, going into this kind of development sprint to see if we can, make it a bit more, user-friendly understandable. And also maybe reduce the threshold a bit for people to collaborate. having the reward and having a system to manage them, it's all, it's all nice. But there is obviously a threshold for people to actually engage with the platform and start being active. So we are doing a bit of thinking and rethinking how it can, we can make it safe. But yeah, I mean, one of the reasons we manage a wait list for the website is that it is relatively complex concept. So we take everyone on, the call, Every influence. We explain how it works. We show them the system. We work with them to identify the right niche. We talked to them about the kind of opportunities or requests for introductions they receive already. So we don't need to reinvent the wheel or, invent completely new niche for them. And then just move those over to prime flow in and help them manage it and also get the of, to. Well, yeah, if people want to learn more, they can just go to prime flow.com. Also have show notes at the Sarah St. john.com forward slash prime flow. Was there anything else you wanted to discuss before we close? Sure. I mean, I'm happy to talk about my coaching business. I'm quite quite proud. That's Just because it's really, it started from, from a few hours a week and I managed to build it to a nice six figure business, which replaced my consulting salary, which was really, really fun. I've done it by really listening to them. clients and also thinking about how they can benefit from my services and how I. get myself out of the equation. coaching is about selling hours and while I really enjoy it I don't have enough hours in the day to actually sell them. So it's all about thinking about how I can create passive income around it and bring other people to work for me. So when I left my last consulting job just before the pandemic, which probably not a great timing, I, I was. Investing a lot of time thinking about it, but not a lot of money. So, you know, I use some relatively low cost tools to create a platform for myself. So I can start working with other coaches as well and get the share of what they're earning and then also creating content. And, you know, I wrote the book about how to get into consulting, just because I heard a lot of my clients asking that. instead of spending time on the coaching session, I would just refer them to the. Then I thought that a lot of my customers or clients were struggling with this kind of basic high school math. So I created two courses on your Demi. And again, instead of spending too much time explaining it and giving them the tips and tricks, just sending them to my academic courses. And that's really nice because it brings in revenue without me having to do much. So, yeah, so you had a coaching business, but instead of, talking to people one-on-one individually trading time for money or whatever, you would create courses on books so that when someone had a particular question you would point them to that then. Yeah, for me, it was just an idea of creating this passive income. But also creating more value for money. That's right. And then we have a one hour coaching session it's quite pricey. So instead of me using half of that explaining than some basic concepts that they can learn themselves, I would just point them to my content. And they're not as expensive as my coaching hours, so they save money and I think I'm providing a better service for them. But now that I'm doing much, much, much less coaching, because obviously prideful, it gives me quite busy that it also creates a nice source of income. So do you have a website then for your coaching business and your courses and books? Yeah. So, so that's what it's consulting case pro. Or consulting case.pro as well. the courses are there and, the book is also there. But it's also published on Amazon. It's called big four, like a pro because for the big four consultancies so PWC, KPMG, Deloitte, and Y, the courses are on Udemy and they're called consulting maths course. specific must streaks and tips for consulting interviews, because you don't need to really know all the math, but there are some specific concepts that you definitely want to refresh, especially for people who've been out of high school for a few decades. that tends to be quiet. You have to be able to solve those Musk questions very quickly and perfectly accurately Thanks for telling me about that. I'll. To the show notes as well, check it out. And I think, what's happening now in the world is, super inspiring for me and motivating, right. Because everyone can find their niche and it was very little investments set up a business. Helpful to people. And, if something is helpful, people are willing to pay for it, you don't need to go to a large corporate to actually get paid and you don't need to work with the large media companies and the internet makes it all possible. And that's why prime Flo was also such an appealing proposition for me, because I think it's really liberating to let people do what they love to do, what they're passionate about. And by the way, making the leap. Which I think is important. Yeah, definitely. Well, I really appreciate your time today. and again, the prime flow.com consulting case pro.com and I'll have links to everything at the series St. john.com forward slash prime flow. Well, thank you again. Amazing. Thank you so much. Sarah was a pleasure.